The Mayapples have popped their umbrellas completely open to shelter from the surging April rains that keep coming down. The abundant rainfall is bringing out the leaves on the trees more every day, so that Pilot Knob is beginning to look lush and green once more. A brisk wind whips the long branches of the weeping willow to and fro today, and the purple blossoms of the lilac wave in the breeze. Their fragrant scent is wafted across the yard, telling of springtime and warm weather and May flowers that follow the showers.
There is a flash of yellow wings, and a flock of goldfinches suddenly rise up from the weeping willow and settle on the full-blooming apple tree. Petals drift to the ground in a pink and white shower. Nothing smells any better on the farm than the delicate scent of apple blossoms, unless it is a blooming plum tree.
What a blessing it is to live in the hills of West Virginia and be able to roam through the fields and woods in the spring. It is almost impossible to stay indoors when each new day brings forth new things to explore. You have to get down close the earth to find many of these tiny wonders, such as the wee pink flowers of the sour grass (wood sorrel) or the tiny red deer berries that grow on trailing vines all along the forest floor.
We had our first mess of poke greens, served with an iron skillet of corn bread, and felt that spring had fully come. Of course, we have had ramps also, and they were all delicious. The ramps were tender and mild, and didn’t seem to leave a lingering offensive odor. (After you eat them, you are immune to the smell anyway!)
Spring is wonderful, but there is always a fly in the ointment. I mean spring-cleaning, which settles down like a spreading malady among housewives. There are conscientious ladies who have already finished their spring ritual, right down to the last nook and cranny. I am not one of them. I wonder who started this business anyway. There seems to be an urge that hits in the springtime to scrub and scour, refurbish and rearrange. I can see prehistoric females cleaning out their caves, raking up the bones from wintertime meals, and spreading fresh hay on the dirt floor. The custom has been carried on down to this present day.
The rains have ceased for the moment, leaving behind cloudy skies and chilly air. The ground is thoroughly saturated with water and the creek that roared by swollen and muddy has simmered down to a murky flow.
The rainstorms that drenched our hills the past few days left behind some flooded basements and minor damage, but we were fortunate that it was no worse. We were spared the wind and damaging hail that hit several parts of the country. The tornadoes that wreaked such devastation and fatalities in other states were heart-rending, and make us thankful that we are tucked in our little niche here in the hills.
The gardens are tilled and disked, and lie sodden and muddy until the soil is dry and warm once more. Our little great-granddaughter Molly Anne was walking past their garden with her father when she noticed the newly plowed ground. “Daddy,” she asked indignantly, “Who put all that dirt in our garden?”
We get anxious every year to begin the spring planting, but have found that the seeds will sprout and come up just as quickly if we wait until the soil gets warm. We have enjoyed several messes of tender asparagus from our garden, and it is still putting forth fat and succulent stalks. It reminds me of poke greens, although I like poke better.
One recipe is for “Poke and Eggs.” The poke is boiled tender (I would always parboil it) then drained, placed in skillet with one tablespoon of bacon grease. Beat eggs well, add to skillet and scramble until eggs are cooked. Add salt and serve hot. Our daughter Crystal from the hills of North Carolina says this is the most common way that they are prepared in that area.
There are so many good things in the woods and fields right now. We have feasted for the past couple of weeks on morel mushrooms, the most sought after delicacy in the woods. Dr. Strickland asked me last week if I had a secret patch, and I had to confess that even I don’t know where my husband’s patch is located. It doesn’t matter as long as he keeps bringing them in. We may have to learn to exist on wild foods instead of our garden produce if the deer keep up their dirty work. They have made a two-lane highway down the hill, across the creek, and thorough our garden. They have been grazing on Andy’s strawberry plants and helped themselves to some of our tender raspberry shoots.
When I walk through the woods now and see all the marvelous things that God has created for our use, I am humbly grateful. I think of the Scripture in Psalms 68:19 that says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.”
Cousin Alyce Faye
PS – Cousin, if your readers are searching for a Mother’s Day gift, I can mail out copies of my books, “This Holler is My Home” and “Homesick for the Hills.” The price is $15.33 each, which includes tax and shipping, and I will personally autograph them as desired. My address is: Alyce Faye Bragg, HC 72 Box 1-F, Ovapa, WV 25150.